U.S. Hispanic Creative: Beyond an Inferiority Complex

With enormous lucidity, Federico Traeger’s “The Hispanic TV Commercial Today” (5/22/08) gives us what is probably the most coherent appraisal of U.S. Hispanic Advertising in today’s America.

Ghosts, myths, truths, half-truths are treated and dissected by this communicator with a mix of wit, experience, detachment, honesty-and a sense of irony.

Traeger does readers an unexpected favor-what we could call added value-by not placing himself at the center of the story, a rare example of public prudence that a number of creatives new to this market will perhaps find inexplicable.

Are Latino creatives inferior to their Latin American counterparts? Of course not! They are simply different in as much as they understand their main target differently. Because the target IS different.

Witness this example. In the :60 TV spot a young woman is on the phone, excited that her man is in the midst of a wild dare, driving at an ungodly speed, chased by police cars, sirens going frantic. “TodavÃa no, mi amor,” she tells him excitedly, as quick editing takes us back and forth from her at home, her eyes glued unto the TV screen, on the phone, and him driving like a madman, obsessively asking her if the television helicopters, hovering over the chaotic scene, have finally captured the live action.

At last, our man is on TV. “¡Estás en la tele, mi amor!,” she tells him triumphantly with nearly orgasmic delight. The O.J. Simpson-Andy Warhol moment is truly funny. No tiene desperdicio.

Has anybody watching American (general market) television seen a spot like this? No daring here. American advertising can be very clever but it is equally fraught with limitations: legal, corporative, synergystic and an overriding sense of self-protection.

The results are many times bland, if compared to other countries whose approach to creative can be, for lack of a better word, “freer.”

Imagine now the luck of advertising in the U.S. Hispanic Market. Derivative by nature, forced to follow strict guidelines in tune with the brand message in the general market, the “we-want-it-to-be-different-but-yet-the-same” syndrome.

Nobody is saying it is impossible to come up with exceptional, fresh, unique, witty, funny creative ideas of the highest competitive caliber. Everyday, hundreds of “creativos” hang their charro hats and set their brains on go trying to write the piece that will convince his or her product manager mentality client in Wichita, Kansas-untraveled, unexposed, unread (as misrepresented by a few creatives) yet strategic, ROI-oriented and very smart-that the idea is good precisely because he, the client, liked it instantly, reacted positively to it, laughed, GOT IT!, etc.

But it is not as easy a process as it can be in so many other countries where the approval layers are less complicated. Those of us who have worked in Latin America know how helpful it can be for good creative to live in its own mundo, one that is organic, etnocéntrico, where the language is one, the colloquial nuances are common to all the consumers of that geographical territory and where advertising many times se retroalimenta de la propia cultura. Go and explain that to some of your U.S. clients!

One last “case study.” The recent and only CLIO won by a Latino agency in the U.S. went, most deservedly, to la comunidad, an agency with creative ideas to boot, a certified winning shop. Curiously, the winning campaign and spots were created for The Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival. In one of the spots, a group of young folks wrap themselves around a giant pink dice whose only dubious benefit is that those who touch it are immediately transformed into albinos while a convinced announcer (muy a-la-Cannes) declares: “Si no es para vos, no es para vos”.

Well, I’m sorry. While I dig the spot tremendously, I have a hunch that this one is not for my client nor for our stressed out immigrants who hardly see turning into albinos as a sign of the small measure of success they look for in America. But who am I to say. Maybe if we place on “Sabado Gigante”?

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